It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers (new host of Monday reading: Kathryn T at Book Date). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community.
Since I am determined to know as many female novelists from around the world before our #WomenReadWomen2019 theme ends, I made sure that I read these two novels – both of them strange and beautiful – and just a dab subversive and weird – tangentially fitting into our ‘surreal’ theme.
Poso Wells [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Gabriela Aleman Translated by Dick Cluster
Published by City Lights Books (2018, first published 2007)
ISBN: 0872867552 (ISBN13: 9780872867550) Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout via Typorama.
It has been awhile since I have laughed out loud reading a book and for that I have Gabriela Aleman to thank. The theme of the book seemed anything but funny – in fact it is so tragic, Aleman has made it morbidly comical. Women have gone missing for years in an impoverished settlement called Poso Wells, and no one seemed to really care enough to investigate – at least, not until a Presidential Candidate has electrocuted himself to death in his own pee, and the next-in-line for President who survived because he was sniffing cocaine somewhere a bit far from the electrocution incident – was seemingly kidnapped by eyeless religious fanatics.
As I was reading the book, I felt that Aleman was writing it with tongue-in-cheek, a sly and devilishly mischievous look in her eye, as her biting commentary about the uselessness of male public officials rang forth in such an effortless and very real manner. While the ‘saviours’ of the story happened to be a male journalist and this drunk drifter male poet who spouts off verses apropos of nothing – their gender seemed incidental and almost made fun of by Aleman, nonetheless. The women, scarred and wounded as they are, seemed luminous and the only sane voices in the entire narrative. There is an undercurrent of subversion that seems to strike at the very heart of South America’s disappearing women, the violence and carelessness levelled against the female species, and the pointlessness of politics that seemed determined to exploit and destroy the natural environment because of greed and just plain debauchery. While seemingly comical, there is rage here simmering and rising to the surface, if left unchecked. It is beautiful.
The Houseguest And Other Stories [Amazon | Book Depository]
Written by Amparo Davila Translated by Matthew Gleeson and Audrey Harris
Published by New Directions (2018)
ISBN: 0811228215 (ISBN13: 9780811228213) Original Title: El huésped y otros relatos siniestros Bought a copy of the book. Book quote layout via Typorama.
This was the perfect slim book to bring for my flight from Dubai to Albuquerque a few weeks back. Each story in this collection is scorchingly surreal – leaving an indelible imprint in my mind. I still remember vividly Tina Reyes whose weekend trips to her married friend the only thing she looks forward to – her loneliness acute, but the sense of paranoia even stronger, especially when a man has taken an interest to her, so much so that it consumes and unravels her. The Houseguest reminded me slightly of Edward Gorey’s The Doubtful Guest found in his Amphigorey (Amazon | Book Depository – which I reviewed here); his bitter end long overdue but still very satisfying. Or the old man who witnesses his own funeral procession in The Funeral. And the unforgettable Oscar featuring the story of a seemingly-cursed family whose lives revolve around a violent and demented family member whose ravenous demands need to be met constantly.
I think what makes the stories work for me is that they are thoroughly absorbing, with a ring of familiarity to it. The descriptions of the characters, the infidelities, the sense of place – all reminded me, just very slightly, of my home country. There are parallels between Mexico and the Philippines after all. I think this is what makes noir at its finest: there is subtlety yet with a rawness to the insanity that makes one a part of the surreal transformation, however brief.
#WomenReadWomen2019: 35 / 36 (out of target 25): Mexico (Amparo Davila) and Ecuador (Gabriela Aleman)